Korean festivals face budget cuts

Public criticism puts spotlight on fests' use of public funds

SEOUL -- Local film festivals and award ceremonies might face a cutback in government funding if public sentiment is critical of the programs.
 
Referring to the recent controversy over jury standards for the nominees of the Grand Bell Prize Film Award, Yu In-chon, Korea's minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, expressed in a briefing Thursday with a local film body that the government should stop funding the award “if there is a continuing noise” about the venue's legitimacy.

He advised that particular attention needs to be paid to examine the composition of jury members and the amount of funding invested into local film festivals. He pointed to the extravagant amounts spent on opening and closing ceremonies of the Grand Bell Award, as an example, and stressed the "efficient operation" of government budget.  
 
The names of the nominees for the Grand Bell Award last month came as a surprise to many. Questions about the jury's standards and fairness was first raised when “Thirst,” Park Chan-wook’s latest vampire flick, was not nominated for Best Picture, and such films as “Sky and Sea,” which had not been released in theaters at the time of the announcement, were nominated instead.
 
The award winner for Best Picture, “The Divine Weapon” also came as a curious candidate, beating Bong Joon-ho's “Mother” and Yoon Je-kyun's “Haeundae," the year’s biggest hit. But issues about the Grand Bell Award aside, the amount of government spending on film festivals have been a controversial issue for some years in Korea.
 
Last year, Chosun Ilbo, the South Korea's top daily newspaper, ran an exclusive that criticized government spending on film festivals that have not displayed distinct differences in their programs. The paper reported that Chungmuro International Film Festival spent 4.1 billion won ($3.4 million), of which 625 million won were spent on publicity alone, about four times more the festival had earned from ticket sales.
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